Monday, May 31, 2021

Misadventures in water

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In my new book, The Last Layer of the Ocean, I describe my uneasy relationship with water. I had always considered myself a land person until I moved to Alaska. There, I was confronted with water: the ocean was a living thing, influencing everything we did. I grew to understand water and to love it. 

Still, I have never felt completely confident in water. I like open water swimming, but I still like to wear fins, and I hug the shore. During a spate of strangely warm days, I convinced myself that swimming season was here. My neighbor's son looked askance when I told him I was going to Kinney Lake to swim. "It's going to be so cold," he warned.

I had touched the water the other day; it felt warm. Brimming with confidence, I drove to the lake to find a bevy of fishermen. Nobody was swimming, but nobody ever did here but me. The fishermen stared as I donned a swimming cap and fins. I had forgotten my wetsuit, but how cold could it be? I launched myself into the water. 

With the first stroke I knew this was a mistake. The water was shockingly cold. I made it a few feet before giving up. The fishermen stared as I crawled shamefully away. At my car, I pondered. I had an old pair of running shoes. I decided to run a few miles in my wet clothes to salvage the day. The fishermen stared as I ran off. 

Ruby thinks the water is just fine.

Okay, so swimming was out. Paddleboarding would have to do. I'm late to the paddleboarding game, because I was always fearful of falling in. I've been surprised to find that it's easier than I thought. My friend Marathon Chick and I paddled serenely across Wallowa Lake. The water is so deep and clear that we could see the bottom--and, unfortunately, the corpse of a deer. It must have fallen through the ice last winter.

We are going to have a few really hot days before the more normal temperatures set in. Do I dare return to the scene of the crime to try to swim again? Will the fishermen once again have something to stare at? Stay tuned...


  1. What kind of fish are in Kinney Lake...besides the larger one with fins and a swim cap, and an swimming dog?

    1. It's stocked. I think with brook trout?

  2. Love the story! I am such a wimp in the water. I like it WARM! It blows my mind because as a kid I swam in REALLY cold water and loved it!!!!

  3. I have read some good things about cold water swimming e.g. but I'm sure it takes some getting used to. I have done the cold showers ala The Iceman Win Hof and felt Fantastic afterwards.
    You are braver than I am though, not the cold water, but the audience!

    1. I have heard there are benefits and I want to try it. It's my face! It gets so cold.

  4. YES to increasing confidence on the SUP and a beautiful lake in which to float. A fb friend in Vancouver posted this past winter about swimming nearly every day in the frigid water. Sometimes for only 5 minutes but was a believer in the cold water wellness. As time went on they were able to stay in a bit longer. I'll skip that treatment!

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